Study abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences for students. After studying abroad, many students return home with memories that last a lifetime. If you don’t agree, just look at the numbers! According to the Open Doors Report, 270,604 US students studied abroad in 2009-2010. This milestone represents the largest number of US study abroad students, marking a 3.9% increase over last year. Whether the attraction is cultural immersion, learning a new language, building professional skills, or to gaining international experience, you may not be able to afford NOT to go.
So then comes the question, how do you finance your study abroad so that you can take advantage of these opportunities as well?
If you are looking to finance your study abroad, you first need to look for opportunities that are free gifts and do not require you to pay back the money. This includes scholarships and grants offered to students. Your financial aid counselors or advisors can be an enormous resource as they may be able to recommend funding options and help you budget wisely. To make sure you take advantage of all of the scholarship opportunities, you should not only contact your financial aid office, but also your study abroad office, academic department, clubs and organizations, national organizations with ties to international education, religious and civic organizations, and perhaps even places of work for you and your parents.
Once you’ve maximized your grants and scholarships, you may find that you need additional financial assistance. Stafford loans are another great way to help fund even more of the expenses. It’s important to note, however, that federal loans have limits on how much you can borrow. To put this in prospective, the maximum Stafford loan that students can borrow is $5,500.
Finally, private study abroad loans are another avenue to finance your study abroad. While you should always maximize scholarships and grants followed by federally backed loans, private student loans can also help you get the financing you need to make your study abroad a reality. If you are thinking about taking out a loan, it is important to realize that loans will need to be paid back along with interest. Consider how this debt will affect you, and develop a plan that will allow you to pay back your loan on time.
Financing your study abroad is no easy task – especially as costs can easily add up while you try to make the most of your international experience. The payoffs, however, are unquantifiable especially in this day in age where the world is interconnected no matter what career path you choose.